Ring the Alarm: COVID-19 Presents Grave Danger to Communities of Color – Colorlines

Posted: March 21, 2020 at 10:47 am

The experts are conveying coronavirus warnings as though COVID-19 will impact Americans equally. More likely, this epidemic will hit the poor of all races and communities of colorand of all socioeconomic classesmuchharder.

We can already predict based on everything we know that the burden of ill health will not be evenly experienced throughout the population, says epidemiologist Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., MPH, PhD, the 2019-2020 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard Universityanda past president of the American Public HealthAssociation.

Experts believe that approximately 80 percent of COVID-19 infections aremildthink: sniffles, a cold or a manageable case of the flu. About 20 percent will need to be hospitalized. Between 200,000 and 1.7 million Americans will likely die.

Disproportionate numbers of those hit hard will probably be Black andBrown.

And while public-health advice suggests that the risk of devastating outcomes is low among those younger age 60, In general, the age concerns and age data that is being promulgated is likely not accurate for the African American community, says Oscar T. Brooks, MD, president of the National MedicalAssociation.

Nor is it likely to hold for other communities ofcolor.

Racism has created an uneven playing field in this country, says Dr. Jones. COVID-19 is about to expose and wreak havoc on that uneven playing field unless we organize and strategize toact.

Heres what places us in such grave dangeralong with suggestions about how to protect ourselves and our lovedones:

From poverty to pandemics, racism increases the odds that well experience societys downsides.

The increased vulnerability of people of color in this country does not just so happen, Dr. Jones says. Indeed, the over-representation of people of color in poverty and the over-representation of White people in wealth does not just so happen.

What to do:

Many communities of color have disproportionately high rates of chronic disease, says Georges Benjamin, MD, president of the American Public HealthAssociation.

Anyone with anything slightly respiratoryasthma, smokers, people with COPDthese are people who really, really, need to be concerned, adds Dr.Jones.

And our young people of color are not necessarily home free, as many experts suggest other young folk are, as they also experience racial health disparities, which weakenthem.

In general, theres a feeling that the younger and healthier are less likely to die of COVID-19. But those who are younger in the majority community may have a better diet, exercise more, and be more easily able to socially isolate themselves, says Dr. Brooks. All of the things that go with youththose factors are not of the same intensity within communities ofcolor.

The same is true of middle-aged adults of color. An average 40-year-old African American may have the same health profile as a 60-year-old member of the majority population, underscores Dr. Brooks. This crosses socioeconomicclass.

Adding insult to injury, We have higher environmental exposures, which put our bodies at higher risk, including living in environmental sacrifice zones, or near highways or bus transfer stations, all of which affect our respiratory function and reserve, says Dr.Jones.

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Stress undermines the immune system and raises your blood pressure, and high blood pressure increases your risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19, Dr. Benjaminsays.

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In general, We have limited or no wealth or savings; limited or no health insurance; limited or no paid sick leave; limited material resources even in extended families, says Dr.Jones.

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In 2018, some 7 percent of Asian/Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and 8 percent of White Americans remained uninsured as compared to more than 11 percent of Black Americans, 19 percent of Hispanic Americans, and 22 percent of Native Americans. No wonder were less likely to have adoctor.

But not having insurance or being connected to a healthcare provider leaves us in greater peril.

If were having a mild fever and respiratory symptoms, we may not go seek care, but may need care to get screened for COVID-19, says Dr.Brooks.

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Many people of color live in cities, dense neighborhoods, or public housing, while others experience housing insecurity or houselessness. Our families tend to be larger, and more than one generation may live under one roof, exposing vulnerable adults to children andteens.

Many people of color also work in service industries, including healthcare, public transit systems, Uber drivers and cashiers, and in other forward-facing jobs that expose us to the publicsgerms.

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Though many folks may be rehired, layoffs have arrived. Turns out, more than half of Americans are at risk of layoffs, furloughs, or reductions in hours orwages.

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From describing people of color as being rapists, killers and from shithole countries, or, most recently, calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus (and worse), communities of color are being attacked, stigmatized, and scapegoated from the highest levels of government.

The racism that led to the election of 45 is going to cost many people their life, says Dr. Jones. This is truly an example of how racism saps the strength of the wholesociety.

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Hilary Beard is a Philadelphia based writer and the author of Health First!: The Black Womans Wellness Guide and Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and inLife.

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Ring the Alarm: COVID-19 Presents Grave Danger to Communities of Color - Colorlines

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